AFRICANGLOBE – On Monday afternoon, Dec. 8, I was meeting with an African American theater director at a Starbucks in downtown Oakland. Unexpectedly, a woman employee approached our table and in a quiet voice said, “We’re closing in 15 minutes, so everyone has to leave.” It was just 3:35 in the afternoon. I looked around and a short Asian American cop was standing near the counter, just standing, waiting, watching. As I gathered up my things and began to leave, another employee was mopping the floor.
Walking past her, I asked: “Why are you closing now?” “It’s the protests, the rioters,” she responded. “It’s not going to be safe to be here.” I didn’t think to ask her whether the police had ordered the shutdown, a form of martial law, or had just suggested it to the manager and led the businesses into compliance.
However, the streets were quiet. There was customary foot, car and bus traffic for this time of day. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening or even about to happen. I wandered down to Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza to help with the filming of a Jewish Voice for Peace holiday message and penned a sign against Israeli apartheid.
There was no shock and awe on any horizon. Not a protester in sight. But the police had done their preemptive job, sent a clear message, and it was given, in person, by officers, to many businesses in Oakland and Berkeley.
By the time I got back to Berkeley on the BART an hour later, the YMCA had a chain link fence across the front entrance and an employee was apologizing for the closure to those seeking to enter. Was this a practice run for some declaration of martial law, some future full jacket militarization of the U.S.?
When you’re living in a world on the edge, you don’t know what to expect next. And we are on the edge, the edge of a new world war, with our own country the main instigator – the U.S. creator of Al Qaeda, now re-kindling and heightening its military presence and warfare in so many countries, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Yemen, Israel, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.
When your country is backing a resurgent militarist and terrorist government in Egypt that has sentenced thousands to prison and hundreds to death simply because they are affiliated with a particular political-religious group, you are putting your people on the edge.
When your government – our government – has armed an allied drug connected government on its southern border to the teeth and watched that government and drug cartels murder tens of thousands of its citizens with impunity for no other reason than to terrorize, we are creating terror.
When your nation’s own police departments and judicial system are so rife with injustice, racism and murder that it is no longer safe to be a Black male anywhere at any time, then “it might not be safe to be here.”
However, where is here? How do we become safe and who or what threatens our safety?
Here could be anywhere – anywhere in the U.S., anywhere in the ghetto, anywhere in the world if you’re a U.S. citizen whose government is spurned by many more millions than just Islamic fundamentalists in ISIS and Al Qaeda for its aggression and the political-economic dominance that fosters suffering and dictatorship and institutionalizes inequality.
That threat to us as Americans is obviously real, but it is also growing concomitantly as the expansiveness of U.S. intimidation of other nations grows. For starters, let’s forget about ISIS for the moment and just consider the endless U.S. bellicosity toward, say, Russia, Iran, China, Cuba, Venezuela. Consider its attitude toward the honest revelations of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Yet rare is the stinking rotten culture that can critique itself and reform itself when light is shined upon its putrefaction. The media jokesters, the politicians, the pundits, the power brokers who dominate our culture and discourse stand exposed and accused.
So they – from Obama to W. Bush – responded on TV, suddenly “appalled” that a man choked to death for selling a few loose cigarettes cannot even get justice after giving up his life. They say they are appalled, so what do they do for us, to us, with us?
They send out their truth squads – the media, the police and so forth – to let the people know that we should be afraid of rioters, mobs, looters and should help the police and the various torturers, drone operators, defense contractors, oil and gas frackers, pollution spewers and Palestinian child killers to carry out their agendas so that they will protect us from the ugly heathen “mobs.”
Who is that mob? That mob is us, expressing the anger that is ours, feeling trapped and helpless. How the times have changed since the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt told Wall Street to back off its fear mongering and told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
This is a message we might send back to the police today, to the media, to the political hacks, the racists, the provocateurs of COINTELPRO and to all the schemes of the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and their ilk: We are not afraid of the protesters you vilify, for – except for a small minority of provocateurs, some of whom are likely in your pay – they represent us.
And we are not afraid of you either, no matter what you may do to us, because prisons cannot hold us all and murder cannot end us all. Ultimately we, the people, will prevail over your endless schemes. You train us to fear, to hate, to dominate, to take advantage and call it education.
In the end, your way of thinking, of acting and of being will surely fail no matter how much havoc you wreak and no matter how hard you work to divide us against ourselves, because humanity is far more decent, thoughtful and powerful than your systematic cruelty.
By: Marc Sapir